Do you feel like exploring the South West of the river? We’ve found a great place in Clapham Old Town where you can discover the contemporary Indian cuisine at Zumbura. Head along for an evening out in the beautiful city.
In three words: Vibrant, Unique, Contemporary
The Lowdown: There’s a new restaurant in town that is offering their own twist on the unbeatable combination of cocktails and cuisine – and this one is a little more unusual than you might imagine.
Granted, Indian food and cocktails don’t always go hand in hand. Dahl and korma is probably going to make you think mango lassi or perhaps cobra beer rather than martini. But hold onto your popadom, because Zumbura restaurant in Clapham is here to change your perception in a big way.
Combining fresh Indian dishes and some incredibly delicious cocktails with great success, they are showing how diners can enjoy the food of the Purab region while also sipping on exotic and unusual libations. And all of this in an intimate and very stylish surrounding that is nothing like the preconceived idea of your standard Indian restaurant.
Location: Clapham Old Town – the delightful little pocket South West of the river that eschews the crazy hurly-burly of London. Clapham Common tube is only a ten minute stroll away.
The Occasion: Perfect for when you crave a meal that’s not too fancy-smancy but is going to excite the taste buds. Relax at one of the casual tables, recline with friends on the cappuccino-cream leather banquettes, or perch at the bar to try some of the sensational drinks – whatever your motive for visiting, Zumbura can cater for it.
Decor: Rather than elaborate gilding or minimalist white tablecloths, Zumbura combines the sleek and contemporary of Manhattan loft-apartment cool, with splashes of colour highlighting the vibrancy of India. There are lemons on the bar tops, beautiful wallpaper decorated with a candy-coloured array of swooping tropical birds, and gorgeous peacock blue accents that look great against the paired-back cool of exposed brickwork. No wonder these guys are designers…
Atmosphere: There’s a definite air of relaxed intimacy, due to the funky decor and fact it’s relatively small (catering to just under 50). The waiting staff is also incredibly friendly and knowledgeable, making you feel right at home.
Culinary Concept: This is cuisine from the Purab region of Northern India, passed down through generations. Aamir Ahmad, one of the founders, says he wanted to provide food that his mother made, and this authenticity is evident in every delectable mouthful. The focus is on small dishes to share, so you can make the most of several of the exciting treats on offer.
What we tried:
We started off with some complimentary pickles, which tasted as fresh as they looked, – like an artist’s palate of bright ochre and cool green. To go with this we chose some samosas, the casing of which were golden and broke into flakes in our mouth, with a lovely cinnamon warmth in the filling. Delicate shreds of coriander decorated the morsels and added extra flavour – there wasn’t a hint of grease about the whole thing.
On to the main course, and we’d been seduced by the machli ka salan – pollock fish curry with mustard seeds and fenugreek. Two hearty pieces of white fish arrived coated in a thick, rich sauce – and yet the dish wasn’t heavy at all. It was evident that not too much ghee had been used – there’s nothing worse than a layer of shimmering oil gradually appearing. It was so delicious we didn’t even really need the rice we’d ordered – the piquant sauce and aromatic, slightly peppery hint of fenugreek worked fabulously together.
We did order two sides though – one being the ultra-delicious and garden-fresh namuna – stir fried peas with ginger and garlic – and a truly impressive dhal that blew all past ones out of the water.
For next time: I love the look of the kulia – an aromatic lamb and turnip stew, cooked on the bone; the hair murgh – chicken marinated in herbs and yogurt; and the delicious sounding gnuggni – black chickpeas braised with onion and mango powder.
Veggie delights: If there is one cuisine that can be relied upon to make the most of vegetables, then it’s Indian. The combination of exciting spices means that okra, gourd, chickpeas, lentils and plenty more non-meat dishes are allowed to shine. Vegetarians should love this place.
Best of the booze: The cocktail list is truly impressive, with something for everyone. Twists on the classics abound – the Fruity Wallah is a tasty Asian Mojito, while the Indian Negroni is a must-try. Woodford Reserve is allowed to shine in place of gin, and is backed up nicely by the additions of Aperol, Antica Formula and the orangey sweet hint of Cointreau.
One of our favourites is the Totally Expressive – it arrives in a coupette almost the size of a frisbee, with that all important layer of froth – pale as the crest of a wave. The taste is superb – punchy, robust from the coffee, and with an additional sweetness from the vanilla vodka and hazelnut Frangelico.
Fun Fact: The five metre long solid oak bar is cut from a single tree that was ethically sourced. Even more reason to prop it up and indulge in a cocktail (especially when you clock the stunning glassware)
Overall: It’s not often that somewhere delivers such a well-executed and novel cocktail list along with food that is unique and fresh. Zumbura is absolutely perfect for those who love the spice, flavour and fragrance of well-made Indian food, but can be wary of the heavier elements of the cuisine. The skill of head-chef Raju Rawat ensures that each dish is a taste sensation, and there’s a good chance it will change your preconceptions about Indian restaurants.
36a Old Town, Clapham SW4 0LB
0207 720 7902